My brother, Harry, and his wife, Buddy, have become new parents about a week ago with the arrival of a healthy baby boythe dragon boy, as Harry would put it. I'm assuming that he was referring to the year of the dragon; and nothing to do with Bruce Lee, the kung fu legend.
Both Harry and Buddy are working parents, and it has become inevitable that while they're at work someone will have to look after their child. For many young couples these days, it would usually mean either sending the child to the grandparents or to a nursery. In some cases it is possible that the wives may opt to become full-time housewives so that they can take full charge of looking after their children. But for many couples, that is not even possible since both parents will have to work to make ends meet.
About 10 years ago, when JJ was born, Mia and I were new parents too, and we tried to get her mom to help us out for the first couple of weeks. But her dad would not allow it. For a while, we were quite disappointed. But later on, we thought it was good that we had to do everything on our own.
The truth is that it's not that we were unwilling to carry out the chores that come together with parenthood; rather it's the skill that we did not have. I was of course willing to play my part in handling the baby, but how my heart rate shot through the roof every time I held JJ in my armsshe was so soft like jelly, and I kept forgetting to support her neck the first few times when I carried her. It's quite a wonder how she survived that first few days without daddy breaking her neck!
Then of course there were the times when it was my turn to bathe her. Oh boy, that was even trickier, I tell youit was hard enough dealing with a soft, jelly-like fragile little body, but to combine that with the slippery affair during the bath?Oh! you don't want to know!
Not to mention about preparing her milk which became something akin to conducting a very sensitive scientific experiment in the lab. You'd need to get the mixture of powder and water just at the right proportions; and at the right temperature too.
Then came those nights when she just cried and cried for no apparent reason, and no amount of lullaby would help to calm her down. The panic of not knowing what to do; and we had to resist the temptation of seeking help from the paediatrician each time she cried like that.
Other lessons were not so terrifying though; in fact, they were amusing, like feeling very proud of myself for successfully putting the disposable diaper on herand kept repeating that for a good month or sountil a lady friend saw how I did it, and was kind enough to tell me that the diaper should be worn the other way round.
Times have changed though. Young couples these days have someone who'd deal with their babies. Many daddies wouldn't have anything to do with the babies until they're nice and clean to play with. The bigger part of the daily choresall those little seemingly insignificant things, but which are actually the joy of parenthoodwould be lost to the grandparents, thus resulting in the gradual loss of parenthood skills.
It makes me wonder what would happen when this generation becomes old, and their children are all grown up and have babies of their own; who will deal with them then? For by then even the grandparents won't have the necessary skills. But then again, humans are very resilient creatures; we can adapt very quickly. I suppose when there is a need, they will figure it out somehow.
At least when my turn comes, I will gladly teach JJ how to deal with the diaper the correct way. Hopefully she will be able to figure out the rest.